It’s long been a tradition that couples see each other for the first time on their wedding day as they are walking into the ceremony. Many couples choose to keep the tradition; however, in recent years, many couples have opted for a “first look” for a variety of reasons.
During a first look, I position the couple in a scenic or meaningful location. One partner is facing away from the other, who approaches and taps the other on the shoulder. That partner then turns and the couple sees each other.
It’s a personal decision whether you choose to have a first look OR you choose to see each other for the first time at the ceremony. However, there are reasons to consider a first look:
A first look creates an intimate, often very emotional moment. I find couples tend to be much more open and emotional when it’s just the two of them, rather than standing before all their guests in the ceremony.
A first look creates a time to exchange letters and / or gifts. It’s also a time when personal vows can be shared. Letters and personal statements of commitment can be incredibly moving and those letters and/or vows become treasured keepsakes for the lifetime to come.
A first look creates a time for the bride and groom to be alone together. When couples sees each other for the first time at the ceremony, afterward they will need to take wedding party, family and couple photos together, usually while cocktail hour is progressing. Then the couple will go directly to the reception. With a first look, the couple will have that time together as well as time alone together after the ceremony, should they want it.
A first look allows the couple to join cocktail hour with their guests. After the ceremony, the couple will usually take a few photos with extended family and a few more couple photos. They then have time to join cocktail hour, should they wish.
A first look allows couples to finish nearly all photos before the ceremony. We can do photos prior to the ceremony of the couple as well as all photos with immediate family and with the full wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and ringbearers.) For many couples, this allows them to go into the ceremony feeling at ease that all those are done.
A first look often allows a couple to feel more relaxed and focused during the ceremony. Many couples feel a great sense of anticipation as they see their partner for the first time. Often that anticipation can feel like nervous energy that dissipates when they finally see their partner. Then when the ceremony time arrives – and most all the photos are finished – they can enter that sacred time fully focused on their vows, their partner and the moment.
A first look is often necessary to complete all photos before sunset, especially during winter months. During the winter months, the sun sets as early as 5:20 p.m., so depending on your ceremony time, you’ll need to do a first look in order to get all outdoor photos taken before dark.
A first look can often help you get beautiful outdoor photos when it’s raining later in the day. Should rain be expected on your wedding day, a first look gives your more opportunities, more times already built into the schedule, to get outside for photos between showers. If you don’t have a first look – and it’s raining after the ceremony – you may have missed opportunities for outdoor portraits on your wedding day. (However, I offer all couples a free portrait shoot on a future date if rain dashes our plans for gorgeous outdoor portraits.)
Ultimately, the decision to have a first look should be based on what feels right for you and your partner. Consider discussing it together, weighing the pros and cons, and envisioning how you want your wedding day to unfold.
Take a look at Sara and Owen’s beautiful first look. They married in Forsyth Park in Savannah, but prior to that, we had their first look on a nearby quiet residential street in the historic district. They exchanged personal vows, and enjoyed a few minutes of time alone before joining their family and wedding party for pre-ceremony photos in the park.